MISSSEY Working with Social Services Against the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children

MISSSEY Working with Social Services Against the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children from Natalie Rodriguez on Vimeo.

Despite a recent nationwide prostitution sweep led by the FBI, the commercial sexual exploitation of children continues to be a concern in Oakland. A recent news report cites Oakland as a city of concern due to the number of group homes in the city; however Nola Brantley, co-founder and executive director of MISSSEY, a local organization that works with victims of commercial sexual exploitation, explains that there has been a reduction in the number of group homes over the past several years.

MISSSEY has a contract with the Alameda County Social Services Agency, which funds two full time advocates who provide intervention for sex trafficked children, preventive work with children in the foster care system, and training for social service workers. MISSSEY’s office is located in Downtown Oakland, Calif., a city considered a hub for prostitution and human trafficking.

KQED news reports, “One reason experts cite Oakland is its relatively large number of group homes for a city of its size.” According to the California Community Care Licensing Department, currently there are 16 licensed group homes in Oakland. Of the 16 licenses, one is provisional and a second one is a probationary one. Brantley explains that there has been a reduction of more than 50% in the number of group homes in the area. “The county as a whole had a big push out of group homes into getting [children] into more permanent placements, even if it meant foster care with the grandmother or another appropriate [extended] relative and there was a big push actually away from group homes.” According to Brantley children in foster care in general are more likely to be victims of commercial sexual exploitation.

According to a press release from the San Francisco Division of the FBI in the Bay Area 12 children were rescued and 17 pimps were arrested during a national prostitution sweep. In Oakland two juveniles were rescued, and two pimps were arrested. Nationwide 150 arrests were made and 105 children were rescued. Of the two rescued children Brantley confirms that one of them was arrested and taken to juvenile hall.

FBINationwideProstitutionSweepJuly2013 title=

MISSSEY’s services extend countywide. Donations can be made by visiting their website at www.misssey.org.

Human trafficking, cell phones and social media sites

Within a month and half the FBI and the United States Department of Justice released news of two California men in relation to crimes of prostitution and “child exploitation,” in both cases technology was a key component in either establishing a connection with the victim or promoting the services. The 2000 Victims of Trafficking and Violence Prevention Act is intended to combat human trafficking “especially into the sex trade.” According to the act, “trafficking in persons is a modern form of slavery.” As a result of the act organizations and coalitions such as The South Bay Coalition to End Human Trafficking, HEAT Watch, Don’t Sell Bodies, BAWAR and Community Solutions were created or began offering services to human trafficking victims. According to Perla Flores, who oversees de Solutions to Violence Department through Community Solutions in the County of Santa Clara, “anybody, who under the age of 18 is prostituted, they are by definition of the Trafficking Victim Protection Act, a victim of human trafficking.”

Kristina Molina, the Latina Outreach Coordinator of Bay Area Women Against Rape (BAWAR) says, “America is under the impression that trafficking a child only happens if the child comes from Mexico or China but the reality is that the majority of trafficked children are American children.” In fact, according to Don’t Sell Bodies, 83% of confirmed cases in the United States “are American born citizens.”

Humant Trafficking in the US Infographic

Statistics from varying reports and anti human trafficking organizations. Infographic created using easel.ly by Natalie Rodriguez.

In April 2013, de FBI released the news that a man from California had pled “guilty to transporting an individual to engage in prostitution.” According to the press release, Marcus Edward Michael Todd Moore of Santa Rosa, Calif., admitted to buying a ticket for a 17-year-old girl to travel from the state of New Mexico “to Oakland for the purpose of engaging in prostitution.” Moore met the girl through a social network site. The 17-yearl-old who Moore was attempting to transport was working with the FBI. The Las Cruces office of the FBI in New Mexico investigated the case.

Molina says “[children are] being taken from state to state and being exploited. So, a lot of children are being brought into Oakland so they can be sexually exploited.” According to HEAT Watch, one in seven children receive an online sexual solicitation or approach. Flores states, “social media are used to recruit and to befriend potential victims, and now they’re also used to advertise the victims that are recruited.”

On Thursday, March 28th, the United States Department of Justice released the news that 20-year-old, Jamir Imari Tatum of Oakland, Calif., was “sentenced for child exploitation crimes.” According to the detention order from February 2012, there was probable cause to believe that Tatum had “committed an offense under 18 U.S.C § 1591” and “2251”, which are the crimes of sex trafficking of children and sexual exploitation of children.

Tatum used his phone to promote the girl’s services and distribute “sexually explicit pictures.” In the preliminary order of forfeiture that was filed November 21, 2012, the court listed a cell phone and a micro SD card that were confiscated from Tatum in February 2012 as property that was “used or intended to be used to commit or to promote” the sexual exploitation of children and “certain activities relating to material involving the sexual exploitation of minors.” The press release states that Tatum was sentenced to seven years in prison for the crimes of exploitation of a 14-year-old Sacramento girl. The judgment filed April 17, 2013 found Tatum guilty of three counts of distribution of child pornography.

Flores believes, “Social media has really opened up so many new avenues for kids to connect [with] people that they would never have met before, so their world has become a lot larger, and they are put out there with predators essentially that know how to entice youth.”